Because people have been asking how the dissertation writing is going, and giving myself permission to post the informally worded, slapdash quickie explanation versions I give friends is somehow very liberating and helpful and I can get on with my life and so forth. This was (mostly) an email to a friend, so my language usage is totally messy and slapdash where I should be careful about terms -- that's entirely fine, fine, fine for now.

Thanks for asking. The writing is progressing, which is -- that's good, right?

It's a tricky results section to write, because I'm actually kind of writing four results section and then a fifth meta-results-discussion section. Well, more like rewriting, and rewriting... it hurts to look at the folder with all of my aborted drafts. I'm writing four separate lens through which to look at the same data:

1. Curriculum is a thing that faculty make for the benefit of their students (they're three separate things: faculty, curriculum, students -- corresponding to self, world, and other.)

2. Faculty are learners who step into curricular experiences (broadly defined, not just courses) that have a long history of being shaped by others (faculty colleagues and students) Basically, instead of the three-separate-things perspective above, this separates the faculty "self" but lumps everything else together -- the curriculum/world and the "others" in that world -- as a soup the faculty learn with/in.

3. Curriculum and faculty are inseparably intertwined; past curricular experiences deeply influence one's identity as a scholar and teacher, and one's identity and values can't help but spill out into the curriculum one designs and teaches. In other words, this one tangles up the faculty "self" and the curricular "world" (and separates out, for the time being, "others" like students and colleagues and external evaluators and so forth).

4. Faculty and colleagues and students are inseparably intertwined; they're not uniform/same/ASSIMILATED BY THE BORG, but there is a sense of partnership and co-journeying and co-creation of the curriculum. This ontology separates all the "agential" (people!) parts of reality from all the non-agential ones (an inanimate "curriculum" as boundary object)

You'll note that these are basically rearrangements and regroupings of the components in the first ontology (self, world, and other) -- all possible logical pairings/clumpings of the trio, except for the one where everything gloms into everything else (that's an ontology for the discussion section).

Each of these lens comes from my data, and each could be a dissertation in its own right. The point I'm trying to make is that these four lens coexist AND logically conflict and can't be stitched into a calm, untroubled Frankenstein('s monster) -- that the reality is super messy and full of tensions.

Simple example: is the curriculum for the benefit of the students, or the growth and interest of faculty? Oftentimes, it's an "and" and not an "or," but when they conflict... which lens do we make decisions from? For instance, if a professor can teach one more class without overloading, do we let her teach the advanced elective she'd be really badass at because it comes from her research (which a small handful of students would take), or assign her to teach an intro section for a subject she barely knows because we need to cover another faculty's sabbatical (and lots of students are super-interested in the topic and need it for graduation)? No real right or wrong answer; depends on priorities, depends on the lens you use to view it... (this is not the greatest example but I'm rushing to explain while trying to figure out my next cup of coffee).

So the end result is really all four ontologies played and diffracted against each other, showing how each makes different things visible/invisible; it's not that one is inherently "the truth" or "better" (all models are broken) but all of them (and more!) are present at the same time, and... hrnghh. It's really hard to describe each ontology well and "prove" it's there, and yet not spiral into the trap of writing FOUR SEPARATE DISSERTATIONS because ugh.

I keep pulling myself back from writing an entire dissertation for each sub-result in non-helpful ways; my prior attempts have all used a technique I jokingly refer to as "data vivisection" -- taking a small excerpt and then picking it apart into the tiniest atoms possible. As in -- I was diagramming sentences, obsessively tracing a pronoun's referents throughout a paragraph -- I kid you not. Tiny, tiny microscope.

And then, two weeks ago, Robin asked if that was actually the process I went through to arrive at my results, and my response was an immediate no. And then a headdesk. I see all the stories at once, but I've been living with them for two years -- and I should be trying to convey that glorious big web to others, not.... 

Okay, back to it before my Ritalin wears out for the morning. And then postdoc things, because there's a slidedeck draft I want to finish before 3pm. See you online.

(and rewriting, and rewriting... it hurts to look at the folder with all of my aborted drafts)